AG suing local nursing home

Monday, July 1, 2002

"No comment" were the only words Monday from local and regional employees of the Eureka Springs Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Diversicare Management Services Co. in Little Rock in response to a lawsuit filed against them by Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor.

The suit was filed Friday in Pulaski County Circuit Court by Pryor on behalf of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit alleging the nursing home has repeatedly failed to meet demands to improve the care of its residents.

It is one of the first suits to be filed against a nursing home under the Arkansas Abuse of Adults Act.

The lawsuit describes allegations of neglect concerning a patient, identified only as Resident #1.

Charged in the suit as defendants are Diversicare Leasing Corporation d/b/a Eureka Springs Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (ESNRC), Diversicare Management Services Co. and the parent company, Advocat, Inc., a for-profit business with 13 nursing home facilities in Arkansas.

Advocat's Arkansas facilities are fully funded with Medicaid monies and accept no private-pay patients, according to a news release from Pryor's office.

Resident #1 was admitted to ESNRC on July 1, 1999. It is alleged that the defendants violated their duty of care to the resident through mistreatment, abuse and neglect, according to the news release.

Treatment plans prescribed by doctors were not carried out and the patient developed serious complications, injuries and life-threatening infections. Inappropriate nutrition and inadequate sanitary care are also contributed to subsequent health problems and hospitalization, according to the news release.

"The filing is indicative of the consequences other nursing homes can expect if they don't fulfill the requests demanded by this office," Pryor said.

"I want the nursing home industry to know that the attorney general's office will pursue nursing facilities that neglect seniors and the disabled.

"If they are not going to adhere to our demands or pay the fines and put in place the remedies that we have suggested, then we're going to court and we're going to sue," Pryor said.

Arkansas law allows the attorney general to sue long-term care providers alleged to have "abused, neglected or exploited and endangered or impaired adults in a facility licensed by the state."

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has two charges -- to investigate and to bring to justice those who abuse the elderly and disabled in nursing homes and to investigate and prosecute providers who commit Medicaid fraud.

If a judge or jury finds in favor of the attorney general, penalties of up to $10,000 can be assessed for each violation.

Legislation passed this year raises that amount to $50,000 if the violation resulted in a death.

The civil penalties are separate from any criminal penalties that may be sought in a separate case.

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